What to expect from Bruce Rauner's State of the State address
Updated to include the audio from Rauner's speech above.
Bruce Rauner has been criticized for not being forthcoming with what he hopes to accomplish as Illinois Governor. But that could change Wednesday as he delivers his State of the State Address.
Rauner has been spending his time leading up to this address speaking about the number of people moving out of Illinois and high income tax rates. He’s been across the state giving a PowerPoint presentation he’s titled “The Illinois Turnaround.”
“This is arguably the biggest turnaround in America today, and certainly it’s the biggest turnaround I’ve ever been associated with,” Rauner said before he showed the presentation to a classroom of business school students at the University of Chicago.
Rauner’s argued for lower income taxes and creating new so-called service taxes, which he’s argued should be added on to the charges associated with everything from membership fees at golf clubs to overnight stays at trailer parks.
The Republican governor also regaled the number of local units of government in Illinois and the amount those agencies rely upon property taxes for revenue.
What has remained a guessing game for Democrats, who have supermajority control of both the House and Senate in Springfield, is what Rauner is proposing to do with his newly-gained power in the executive branch.
“His campaign promise was that he’s gonna cut our taxes and spend more money on education. So we’re just waiting to see how he’s gonna do that,” said Democratic Senate President John Cullerton.
House Speaker Michael Madigan estimated the state will face a projected $11 billion budget hole over the next two years since Rauner advocates for lower income tax rates. Illinois has a flat income tax rate that dropped from 5 to 3.75 percent at the beginning of 2015.
“If we don’t fix the budget, if we don’t get spending under control and match it up with revenue and - probably with an increase in revenue and cuts in services, nothing else will matter,” said Kent Redfield, a political science professor at the University of Illinois Springfield.
Rauner is scheduled to address more specific budget recommendations in two weeks. In the meantime, as part of his PowerPoint presentation, Rauner has drawn the ire of labor unions by loudly criticizing their relationship with elected officials. He’s called unions’ ability to give campaign donations a conflict of interest, since those same unions also negotiate contracts with those politicians they help elect. Rauner has called for a ban on campaign contributions from unions.
He’s also advocated for so-called right to work zones, in which new employees of local governments would not have to join the union if they’re hired.
And most recently, Rauner has compared the salaries of low-level state employees, like barbers at Illinois’ prisons, switchboard operators and cooks, to their private sector counterparts. Rauner has said the state payroll has increased while the number of state employees has gone down.
“All he’s talking about are kind of these bromides, sort of tired, ideological bromides against unions and working people and it doesn’t advance Illinois’ economy one bit,” said Dan Montgomery, the head of the Illinois Federation of Teachers.
Senate President Cullerton said Rauner would have a hard time passing many of his proposals against the will of unions, since labor groups in Illinois have traditionally backed both Democrats and some downstate Republicans.